From “Just in Time” to “Just in Case”: Why Analytics Is Key to a Holistic View of the Supply Chain
When you begin a data journey by mining your data for insights, you don’t know what you don’t know. You probably have a lot of questions, but that’s about it. But the further you get, the further your insights will take you, and if you’re a great analyst, you’ll go wherever the data leads. Before you know it, you’ll be far from where you thought you’d be—and that can be a good thing.
When the pandemic rocked the world’s supply chain, SDI—a Supply Chain As-a-Service provider—was on top of it. Our Digital Supply Chain Management Platform, ZEUS, helps our clients see how their enterprise asset management and facilities management strategies are impacted by their indirect supply chain, so they can better manage their critical spares and essential operating materials. Using Qlik, this 360-degree supply chain control tower helped our clients make informed, data-driven decisions. Based on what we learned throughout the pandemic, we evolved ZEUS to better enable users to benchmark and track spend analytics while providing an easy mobile app interface for eProcurement and order-to-shipment tracking.
Over the past year, SDI has doubled down on our commitment to an optimized digital control tower, helping our customers gain a more holistic view of their supply chain. This commitment includes building the best possible system for customers while simultaneously leveraging the data and analytics capable of driving us forward.
We must do the best with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is data—lots of it.
The Explosion of Supply Chain Data
SDI has come a long way in the past two years, particularly regarding our tech stack. We’ve really leaned into our ZEUS analytics suite to look closer at the data we create. ZEUS analytics architecture lets clients directly access 20–30 KPIs at any given time, to better understand how their supply chain strategy is impacting performance. They can generate alerts and track all aspects of these KPIs. We integrate all connections by pulling data into Qlik as a visualization tool, letting clients see everything in their supply chain as it’s happening—analytics and integrations, EDI, the data interchange between companies, invoicing, ordering, and so much more
It’s wild to think how five years of innovation happened in five months. Truthfully, it seems like 10 years of innovation in 18 months. To that end, we’ve pushed ZEUS to its limits. Our analytics dashboard has seen some significant developments in 24 months, including the addition of , the ability to generate score cards on master data, and the opportunity to generate unique slide decks for clients through (which saves a ton of time).
Reporting generally looks backward, but we need to be proactive in this environment. The Last Price Paid feature functions as a “heads up” to let clients know what items are affecting their bottom line. If there’s an open order where the price they’re paying today is over X threshold more than the price they paid before, they receive an alert. We can also set alerts for other kinds of forecasting, which helps de-risk the supply chain. For example, we can say, “Here are the 10 orders where you need a part in three days, but the lead time on that part is greater than 10 days,” so clients can adjust accordingly. We prepare the analytics and then use automation to notify them ahead of time, rather than making them look.
Scorecards are another exciting feature for clients of any size. While they weren’t necessarily a world-changing feature at the time of development, they’re virtually a necessity today. Put simply, ZEUS can generate scorecards that offer detailed information about items in our customer’s eProcurement system. Items without adequate descriptions, images, or codes can be sliced and diced into multiple different catalogs, saving both time and money.
SDI has also leaned heavily on NPrinting to generate client slide decks. This feature has been a part of NPrinting for some time, but our usage has grown as we’ve gained so many unique clients. At least 30 of these clients have periodic business reviews, and we can instantly generate slides with any number of metrics, such as on-time delivery, cycle counting at a site, and time to receive items. Before, an operations manager would have to go in and create the slides manually using the analytics in our Qlik environment. Now, that work is done for them. NPrinting currently produces 35 graphs for every client in a PPT file that aligns with marketing specifications.
The importance of our digital control tower is growing, especially in how we track the pulse of the modern supply chain. Qlik Alerts enables clients to move from forecasting to proactivity, giving them the best bang for their buck every time.
The Evolution of Data Analytics
SDI has seen an 8X increase in the number of clients getting access to external analytics since 2020. We’ve also seen an increase in our number of users, from 10 external users to 100 external users leveraging ZEUS.
I firmly believe this is due to our automation efforts, all of which have increased significantly. Automation should be used as a value add, not as a replacement for people, and we’ve developed a system that takes our user’s needs into account.
We’ve accomplished many automation improvements through Qlik, which has worked wonders for SDI. For the six months that the program has been running, we’ve:
- Captured 40,000+ opportunity hours
- Found more than 250 processes nominated for digitization
- Put 250,000 potential hours into the development pipeline
And these numbers are only projected to rise in the next 12 months.
The accelerated adoption of digital supply chain technologies has evolved how SDI serves clients with data. The way we systematically provide and refine our approach to analytics gives folks a chance to take data and make it even better, plugging into APIs that truly make a difference. APIs are nothing new, but their ongoing use in the marketplace positions them to be far more important going forward. Going deeper with ZEUS and Qlik means that we can help customers understand their supply chains better and think more progressively.
Now that we have a good way to organize and access supply chain data, we are much closer to reaching “just in case” in a sustainable sense. There’s always more data to leverage, and the availability of tremendous data sources is growing by the day and spreading throughout the industry.
All of these advances boil down to the basics of having good data and knowing how to interpret that data. And if you can do it all correctly, you might find yourself with a brand-new lease on supply chain analytics.
The Future of “Just In Case” Analytics
Data is the most essential asset for any company and needs to be treated as such. Dig into your data and its power every step of the way. Businesses that do this well will be the ones that come out on top. Clean-cut data can help companies attain that goal by offering a complete view of everything that matters..
The future of digital supply chain technologies and the impact of APIs will only continue to change. Now that we’re processing data in a curated way, SDI can build future models that will automate questions and their answers. I’m excited to work with current data to create future-focused technologies, hopefully in more ways than one. This namely takes the form of an integrated repair platform, although that’s still in development. We’re also looking to the future with an AI-guided system matched with augmented reality to manage our data control tower better.
Let’s be honest: The wiggle room that previously existed in the supply chain is gone, and everyone has to be much more precise. We must stay ahead of our clients, leveraging the power of data to see the complete picture.